EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A single mom from Guatemala who saw her 5-year-old drown in the waters of the Rio Grande this week near El Paso wanted to migrate to the U.S. so she could provide for a disabled son back home, according to her relatives.
Silvia Garcia and her daughter Margareth Sofia were trying to cross the river into the United States from Juarez, Mexico, on Monday when the girl lost her grip and went under the water, Mexican officials said.
Juarez police officers first pulled the mother out of the water and began searching for Margareth Sofia’s body, which they found several minutes later.
“At 2:30 (p.m.) they notified us that the girl had been taken by the river and that they could not find her. Ten or 15 minutes later, they told us they had found her, but that the baby was dead,” Rosa Garcia, the girl’s aunt, told the online portal Esquipulas Dia tras Dia. “It’s very painful and sad.”
Mother and daughter floundered in the water at a spot where migrants from all over the world every day walk across a usually half-dry river to turn themselves over to the U.S. Border Patrol and request asylum. But recent rains in the El Paso area had swelled the water levels on that day.
The pair left the village of Chanmagua, in eastern Guatemala two weeks ago. They both lived in Rosa Garcia’s home, where Silvia had given up on getting help locally to take care of her other child, a son with developmental disabilities.
“People must be saying, ‘she left for the money.’ No, she left because her son is special and here, they don’t get the help they get over there. She left with her (daughter) because being over there (the U.S.), she was going to be able to help her son,” Rosa Garcia said.
The aunt said she remembers Margareth Sofia as a happy girl who liked to run, jump and play with her cousins at the extended family’s home. The woman has set up a memorial consisting of flowers and photos in the bedroom the girl used to occupy.
The family now is asking for donations in Guatemala to pay for the repatriation of Margareth Sofia’s body from Juarez to Chanmagua. They’ve been quoted a fee of 50,000 Guatemalan quetzales (US$6,400).
Johana Garcia, Silvia’s sister in Kansas, told Esquipulas Dia tras Dia that her sister remains hospitalized in Juarez following Monday’s traumatic events. She lamented a slew of online posts she’s seen criticizing Silvia’s decision to cross the waters of the Rio Grande with a 5-year-old in tow.
“They are asking why she did that. But really, who are we to judge? She migrated out of need, like I did, so she could provide for her two children,” Johana told the online portal. “She thought that only by migrating to this country she could help her son.”
Juarez authorities said Silvia Garcia was one of four migrants they pulled out of the water alive on Monday.